Sunday, March 13, 2016
WHAT MAKES A WRITER?
Do I presume much to pose this question? Or only if I attempt to answer it? Some would say they can recognize a good writer or a good book. A facile answer would be 'anyone who writes'. Indeed, Amazon is closing on 10 million published books through the means of their publishing program. Ten million books would be more than any one person could ever attempt to read in a lifetime even if several books were read in a day, to the exclusion of all else save eating and sleeping. Even limiting yourself to age group and genre would still leave an enormous landscape of books to traverse. Some might see this surfeit as a positive thing, perhaps in the same way that the quantity of chocolate that piles up on the holidays could be seen in a providential light.
But in the same way that there is chocolate and then ***chocolate*** some books are better than others, by a considerable margin. Now it is not my place to determine the qualitative rankings of books; to each his or her own, I always say. Perhaps it is easier to define excellent chocolate as having to do with the quantity of cocoa and the skill of the chocolatier.
When I attempt to edit a ten year old's story writing with the view to improving their skills, the shortcomings are easy to spot: Putting aside errors in fundamentals like grammar, spelling, and punctuation, there are the issues with plot development, otherwise known as plot holes. Characters appear and as easily disappear in a sort of deus ex machina manner. Action seems to follow the storyline of certain well known video games. Character development and motivation are not present . . . but I make serious attempts not to expect too much. A simple story with a few interesting characters and one or two descriptive turns of phrase or description would make me ecstatic. I see it occasionally.
But I've come to think that creative writing can be difficult to teach and like musicality, needs to be almost inherent in the person. Someone is drawn to write and has a story, or more likely several, to tell. I have a theory that readers make the best writers because, in the same way that correct spelling implants itself in your brain if you see the word often enough, reading prolifically imbues the reader with the flow and rhythm of story as if by osmosis.